Discount Alert! Rutgers Unite Half Marathon

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Hex Hollow Half

It was oddly warm for a rainy and dreary December Sunday, but a bunch of us felt it necessary to run in the woods along some of the gnarliest, muddy, hilly, soggy, soul crushing trails in York, Pennsylvania in a 6.66 mile race known as the Hex Hollow Half. The race is held at Spring Valley County Park, in Glen Rock, PA.

Now it’s called a half since it is a 13.1 mile race if you decide to run the 6.66 mile loop twice. But let’s be honest, only the crazies attempt that. Since this was my first year, 6.66 miles was just enough for me to handle. So I guess I technically ran the Hex Hollow Half-Half.

Did I mention it was muddy?

The race begins on a downward trail that run along the border of the park’s woods. You feel great, the air is cool and damp, your footing is strong and the slight drop in elevation teases you into thinking Hex Hollow is a nice and easy quick race. I saw my 9:30 pace and chuckled as I jumped over some course obstacles. I left my Ultimate Direction hydration pack in the car, I mean it’s only a little over 6 miles, did I really need it?

The answer was yes. I’m an idiot. And it’s not because I needed hydration per se- it’s the fact that I started the race wearing too many layers. The pack would have been ideal for toting all my junk versus me awkwardly carrying everything the entire race.

Mile 1 was a freaking tease. The course never got any easier after that. What’s the saying? “What goes up, must come down.” Yeah, we went up alright and some sections we came down, but it never was easy either way. Going uphill seemed to be the theme of the day, and my heart rate was at maximum threshold the entire time. I would walk when the incline was just too much, but it didn’t seem to help the mental games the course played. I doubted myself in some spots, stopping was never an option because if I did I was calling it quits.

Miles 2-3 were tough. Coming down to the aid station at mile 3 was tricky. The trail was wide and looking inviting, it was a downhill section that was asking for trouble. The leaf covered ground hid rocks, twigs, and ankle twisting moss covered roots just salivating at the sight of runners. My quads burned as my internal Jake-brakes kicked in and I jarred and jolted my way down the hill. I’m not sure if I drank the water or just poured it all over my face, either way it was ice cold.

Most of the race was single track, sopping wet and muddy with no room for mistakes. The mud did everything it could to suck the shoes off your feet.

Miles 4, 5, and 6 weren’t any better. The stream crossings were refreshing and fording the knee deep water at one point was the highlight of the race. The air was cold, damp, and foggy, but as soon as your heart rate increased you could feel the humidity and weight on your chest. At mile 6 in a sharp incline an older woman passed me and grumbled something to God that there were no more hills. She hexed us, as we rounded a corner the hill only kept rising and if I had a rock I would have thrown it at her.

This race was a humbling experience. Beyond humbling if that. As I ran up to the finish line at 1:30:05 the race director asked if I had fun as he put his arm around me and matched my weak jog. I looked him in the eyes and said, “how do I politely tell you that I hate you guys? I’ll see you next year, I’ve got unfinished business.” He laughed and told me that is what he loves to hear, so many people have a love hate relationship with the race that it draws them back for more. He’s right. I’ll be back, it was an awesome race and a great experience I’ll remember until next time.

https://www.bibrave.com/races/hex-hollow-half-reviews/11306

Two Town Turkey Trot 2018

Thanksgiving 2018 marks the third year of this Annual Turkey Trot, and also my (and my family’s) 2nd year running this race. The course is semi-flat with slight inclines on some sections and perfect for catching a PR and laying down some speed. The scenery running across the river is breathtaking and running through the charming towns of New Hope, PA, and Lambertville, NJ on a crisp autumn morning has its perks. At $35 per registrant, the race is affordable and on-par with similar 5k race prices.

The first year we ran this race, everything met our expectations. The tech shirts were nice and comfortable, appropriate for the autumn weather. The medals were made with impressive quality and a real collector’s item. We missed the second Annual race, but the tech shirts and medals were also impressive and truth be told: I was slightly bitter we missed the race. This year carried high expectations, so I was slightly disappointed to find this year’s shirt was your standard cotton tee and not a tech shirt. The disappointment also carried on to find that participants would not receive finishers medals. I’m curious what happened? Why the change from tech shirts to standard cotton tees? Why stop with finishers medals?

I should mention as an avid runner I’m okay with not getting medals for 5Ks, and I’m fully aware that 5k races attract a wide range of experienced and inexperienced runners. And I understand a majority of these races help raise funds for local charities. This race supports the Delaware River Towns Chamber of Commerce and a local charity that helps feed local residents. But I can’t help shake the feeling that even though the entry fees remained the same, the entrants got less in return from previous years. Also for non-avid runners and those that are in it for the family fun aspect, not getting a finishers medal is kind of a bummer. My whole family runs this race, so the kids (and some adults) were disappointed no medals were involved.

Also for the inexperienced runners, no aid stations were offered, nor water for finishers. It was a little bit of a letdown, but not a deal breaker for me, but for the recreational runners, I’d expect at least one aid station somewhere along the course/finish.

I’m on the fence about registering for next year’s race. While I enjoy the course, I can’t see paying the entry fee for a family of 4 only to be dissatisfied again. I also would like to see the proceeds of this race benefit the local charity “Fisherman’s Mark” more than the chamber of commerce and its programs. It seems the organizers really stepped down the “swag” to their benefit. Eh, what do I know?

I finished 158 out of 680, with a finish time of 00:25:24

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Race Recap: Ragnar Relay, Pennsylvania

Where should I start? Let’s rewind to January 2018, my friend asked me if I wanted to join him and his Ragnar Relay team – I scoped out the website, saw I had a couple hundred days to train and said, “why not?” After which I was promptly added to the team roster.  I came up with a fairly reasonable training plan and figured I had plenty of time to work out the details.

My friend hosted a couple of meetings, where we all got together and chose our “legs” based on runner number and also met to discuss logistics. For those of you that are new to Ragnar, it can be broken down like this:

The Ragnar Relay is a 200-ish mile race from one city to another.  The relay race is made up of teams.  Each team is comprised of up to 12 runners.  The 200-ish miles are divided into “legs”, ranging from 3 – to 9 miles each.  Each runner is assigned predetermined legs.  The first 6 runners are assigned to “Van 1” and the remaining 6 runners are assigned to “Van 2”.  Each runner runs 3 legs over the course of the entire race.

The race started from Lancaster area and ran all the way up to the Poconos.  Our team of 12 looked at each runner number and predetermined legs to find one that suited our running best.  Since this was my first relay, I chose one of the runner positions that had around 18 miles total – about the middle of the pack compared to the other available slots.  Anyway, not to bore you with the details, but due to some scheduling conflicts and last minute trades, I ended up in the Runner 4 position (totaling 16 miles).

My legs were: Leg 4 (4.6 miles), Leg 16 (3.45 miles), and Leg 28 (8 miles).

Enough talk here are some photos I took (enjoy!):

Gear Prep: I had packed 3 sets of running clothes, 3 pairs of shoes (2 to run, 1 pair to relax), various hats and bandannas, Feetures! and Mojo Socks, Running belt, headphones, safety gear, and a CamelBack waterpak.

Not shown, electronic prep included a portable battery pack (which was stolen or lost on race day) phone charging cables, iPad, iPhone, Garmin Charger, Garmin Forerunner 225, and two GoPro cameras and batteries.

At exchange 12-13, our van was looking pretty awesome.

In hindsight, we brought too much food. Everyone on the team thought it was great to bring trail mix, nuts, water, and snacks. I also thought it would be awesome to supply everyone with HoneyStinger products. Needless to say, no one was leaving or going hungry.  We had some much leftover food it’s not even funny – and despite grazing on snacks the entire time I constantly felt like I could just eat a nasty juicy burger.

Here I am at exchange 3-4 about to head out on a nice 4.6 mile run not too far from home (top) and coming in hot to hand off at the next exchange (bottom):

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It was awesome and exhausting. Our driver had backed out so our Team Captain and I took over driving and navigating responsibilities. Not ideal, but it really made this a hands-on adventure and added to my experience. Since I had roughly 12 hours between my legs, I was willing to tackle the job. I should also mention, we decided as a team to split up the driving for the ride home, so I was more than happy to pass out!

I snagged a few pics from my GoPro from my second leg. It was a nice 3.45 miles around a park along the water and ended up at a Church parking lot.  We were on time crunch, so I literally arrived and jumped right into the Van.

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After this things got blurry for me. We had about 6-7 hours of downtime which would have been ideal for rest, but being short on a driver required our Team Captain and me to stay awake and navigate to the overnight exchange. I will say, it was worth it- there is so much to take it we hung around a little too long at the second Van 1 – Van 2 exchange. This put us back a smidge and we got a late start to the overnight point.  We skipped going out to dinner or even stopped for fast food, we just had a laser focus on getting to the next exchange.

Sleep was (is) optional if you can sneak in a few Zzz’s I’d recommend it! All-in-all I got 3 hours of restless sleep, and that’s rounding up a little.  When I did sleep, it was one of those wild and crazy “I’m past the point of tired” dreams.  I dreamt that a girl named  Megan joined our team and was out to sabotage us, which became the running joke the following morning.

The next morning I was slated to run at 6:30 am and since we were running about 40 minutes ahead as fast as I could get ready, I was off!  I got to take in some truly beautiful scenery and since my portable power supply was gone, I didn’t get a chance to charge up my GoPros. This hill (above) lead to some amazing sights, my teammates captured some of the beauty.  The course ran along many dirt roads, the further north we traveled.  You could just feel how remote we were running along these winding roadways in the middle of the countryside with not a house in sight.

Our van by this point was looking pretty rough as well, but all in good fun.  I had added a few more tick marks to our miles and a few more sayings along the way.  Despite having backup cameras, we still couldn’t land the perfect parking job when reversing into spots.

Our final meeting was at a drive-in theater. We were all exhausted and over it, but still amped up for the finish.  Once we finished our legs, I drew Larry Enticer on the side of the window of our van, encouraging Van 2 to just send it to the finish line.

Drive-in pics:

All-in-all this post isn’t doing my experience justice. It was hands down awesome and I’d do it all again.  I knew 2 people on the team when I joined, and that’s being generous – when I left I never felt more comfortable with a group of new-found friends than I have before.  You wouldn’t think you’d go through so many emotions in such a short time, but we all laughed at the good times and shared in the pain when the running (and hills) got tough.  I walked away from this experience amazed at what the body is capable is doing despite fatigue, and feel an added boost of confidence in myself.

Here’s to the next one!

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iCare 5k

Every year a nearby food bank hosts a 5k almost in our backyard. Blessings of Hope has a huge yard sale, auction, food vendors, activities for kids, and of course a 5k race in beautiful Lancaster County. The company is predominantly Mennonite so it attracts the local Amish and Mennonite community at large. Turn out is always HUGE.

This year the 5k drew a much larger crowd as well. The course was the same as the previous year, a nice easy run on the back roads of Amish Country. There is a slight incline, at the very start, but for the most part it’s nothing too crazy and very runner friendly.

At the very beginning I noticed a lot of kids hanging around the starting line- in fact there were a lot of kids and I thought how fun it will be to blow past them at the half way mark. The announcer’s voice boomed over the handheld speaker as she yelled “GO!” and we were off. Truth be told: those Amish kids took off and I didn’t see a single one after that. Even though my first mile was complete in 7 minutes, and my second mile at 7:20, those kids were fast and long gone.

The course was beautiful as always, and the atmosphere and iCare event was a lovely experience. Even though I hit a few PRs, fastest mile (7:11), fastest 2 miles (14:31), I still finished 25th overall. I placed 3rd in my age group and received a fidget spinner medal- all-in-all, it was pretty fun.

Last year I ran a lot slower, with an average of 9:00 min/miles and placed 2nd in my age group. So this year I’d say the amount of competitors was a lot higher and the skill levels were just as high to match. This is a fast course and we saw some really fast times! Looking forward to next year!

Hard Cider Run – Race Recap

It’s that time of the year again! When the grass begins to grow,  the cider flows like water, and over a thousand people attempt the run the Hard Cider Run 5K in Gettysburg, PA.  This year we signed up for year 3 of running the Hard Cider Run at Hauser Estate Winery, home of Jack’s Hard Cider, in Biglerville, Pennsylvania (Gettysburg).  This is usually our favorite race, mostly because its in our favorite town, and also the course is just downright fun.  However, this year was a little different.

I will say, the PROs of running this race: Nice Shirts and Medals, the event hosted by Hauser Estate gets better every year with entertainment and food trucks, Race photos are typically posted within a few days, and the Jack’s Hard Cider is always welcome.  We’ve signed up every year for the last 3 years, so obviously we really enjoy this race, but I think after this year we’re going to take a break.

Side note: look at the first year we ran the race until now, Transformation Tuesday!

And here’s why:

First off, when you really enjoy something, it’s easy to over do it. And some times too much of a thing can be a bad thing, so in an effort to keep our love affair with the Hard Cider Run, we’re going to take a back seat for a year or two.  That is the main reason we are going to sit the next year out.  That being said, this year’s event didn’t seem as streamlined as previous events, and the overall experience was soured a little by that.

This year over 1,800 people signed up!  Like most races, this was broken up into corrals for different skill levels / running pace.  Since we treat this as a fun run, we sign up for the third wave, which is around the 10:30 min/mile pace (run/jog) corral.  In previous years, there was a 10 min break between corrals, which kept the field traffic to a minimum – this year, the break was about 3 minutes.  The course was changed from the previous years and rather than a gradual hill to start, the course immediately sent you into a bottleneck, and then an insanely steep hill.  There was a lot of heavy huffing and puffing as people attempted to chug up the hill.  Since the corrals were released so quickly, we did a lot of stopping this year due to traffic jams.  So needless to say, the race didn’t have a very graceful start, and it seemed like the traffic continued throughout the race.  By the way, speaking of people, race photos – this sums up my race experience (lost in the crowd), there were literally 2 pictures of me in the all race photos, and I’m buried in a sea of people. Haha.

Also, new runners, it’s great to see so many people participate in this event – that ensures it will be around for years to come – but there are some general house keeping rules they should have announced to each corral. If for some reason you are going to stop or walk, please step to the right side and let runners pass on the left.  Also, in tight areas (I know this hinders social time) but please don’t walk side-by-side.

Anyway, it’s not you Hard Cider Run, it’s us – we don’t ruin wanna a good thing.  In fact, after re-reading this I feel like I’m coming across as complaining and whining jerk.  Please know I love this race and we’ll be back – just not next year.

Hot Chocolate 15k – Race Recap

Before we start, can I tell you how much I love this race? The Hot Chocolate 15k is just an awesome race all around.  The only complaint is finding a parking spot around the city, but hey, par for the course.  This year I hit another PR, beating my previous runtime by around 8 minutes.  I felt strong the entire race, and get this – NO MUSIC.  I decided to ditch the headphones and listen to myself breath, and it was an amazing experience.

Running without music really heightened my other senses and I felt like I was sincerely listening to my body.  It also afforded me a chance to really take in my surroundings and hear what was going on around me.  Life can be pretty crazy, and it’s almost sad to say this, but you never know what’s going to happen at an event like this.  There were over 5,000 participants in the 15K, plus spectators, staff, and volunteers – it was crazy busy!  So being alert and knowing my surroundings was extremely comforting.  Another comforting sight was seeing the sheer amount of awesome volunteers, police, fire, ems, and sanitation crews.  Major kudos to the men and women of the Philadelphia Law Enforcement, First Responder, and Public Works Departments.

The first half of the race takes you from the Philadelphia Museum of Art toward Center City and then loops you back around to cross over the Susquehanna into Fairmount Park.  You run up Martin Luther King Drive and catch the wonderful sights of Boathouse Row.  It’s an amazing sight and such a beautiful landscape.   The Philadephia Hot Chocolate Run is an Out-and-Back Course, so once you run the entire length of the Park, you turn around and come right back.

I didn’t carry much on me during this year’s race, last year I carried Sport Beans and two water bottles with Nuun in them, this year a single Stinger Gel Flask and one Orangic Honey Stinger Waffle was just enough.  Heck, I even forgot to eat the waffle until the very end!  The entire race was enjoyable, it wasn’t until mile 8 that I noticed some discomfort.  I’m not really sure what triggered it, but I decided to check my heart rate at mile 8 and noticed I was at my max threshold (red area for those Garmin users).  Maybe it was a lack of glucose in my bloodstream, but I just felt a little off.  I decided to walk for 1 min, and see if my heart rate would drop back to my Anaerobic zone (Orange) or if I could manage to calm myself my Aerobic zone (Green).  I chugged the rest of my gel flask and nabbed a Nuun water from the last aid station – I checked my watch and saw that I had managed to bring my heart rate into a comfortable zone, so I picked the pace back up.  I finished feeling pretty good with my average pace around 9:30 min/mile.  Could I have gone faster? Maybe, but let’s save that for next year!

Finish Time: 1:29:41